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More than two dozen arrested in Kentucky's Final Four celebration

By Ellen Wulfhorst

(Reuters) - More than two dozen people faced criminal charges on Sunday after violence broke out as fans celebrated the University of Kentucky's win over arch rival Louisville in their NCAA Final Four match-up, officials said.

Thousands of fans filled the streets of Lexington downtown and near the campus Saturday night following Kentucky's defeat of Louisville 69-61 in New Orleans, but the party was marred by violence, authorities said.

Revelers set fires, torching couches, chairs and other furniture, according to officials. A car was turned over and set ablaze as well.

As of Sunday, 27 people were under arrest, said Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. Earlier information that had been released saying there were 58 arrests was inaccurate, she said.

Most face charges of disorderly conduct and alcohol intoxication, although two people were charged with arson, she said.

As rocks and bottles were thrown, a campus police officer suffered a cut hand when she was struck by a bottle, a university spokesman said.

Celebrations on campus were largely peaceful, but tensions erupted in neighborhoods nearby, the spokesman said.

"They beat an arch rival," said University spokesman Carl Nathe. "The majority of people were just celebrating, but some people took things too far."

Lexington's Wildcats face Kansas for the national basketball championship on Monday night.

Kentucky's coach John Calipari said at a news conference on Sunday that he didn't know what the reaction might be if the team wins Monday's game. He said the team has "the classiest fans" but they "go overboard sometimes."

"They're burning couches in the semifinal," he said. "Hopefully, they're in their houses and they hug their wives and they kiss their dogs, I don't know, but just not go crazy if we're lucky enough to have it happen."

"They're the most passionate fans," he added. "They're into it like you can't believe, as you know. But we're just going to play a basketball game. And then after it's over, whatever happens, we'll deal with the results of it."

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Additional Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Colleen Jenkins)

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